What is Milk Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

Fabric nameMilk cotton
Fabric also known asMilk fiber, casein fiber
Fabric compositionBlend of casein protein from milk and acrylonitrile or pure casein protein
Fabric possible thread count variations200-300
Fabric breathabilitynReasonably breathable
Moisture-wicking abilitiesHigh
Heat retention abilitiesMedium
Stretchability (give)Medium
Prone to pilling/bubblingLow
Country where fabric was first producedItaly and the USA
Biggest exporting/producing country todayEurope
Recommended washing temperaturesWarm or hot
Commonly used inSocks, underwear, other forms of intimate apparel, clothing usually made from wool, and household textiles
textile milk cotton yarn
Textile Milk Cotton Yarn

What Is Milk Cotton Fabric?

Milk cotton is a fabric that is made from the protein casein, which is found in milk. Also known as milk fiber or casein fiber, this fabric has been historically combined with other materials to give them a texture and strength similar to that of cotton.

To clarify, milk cotton is not an organic fiber, as it is made by chemically processing casein powder from milk, which is a natural material. While it is not considered a fully synthetic fiber, as it is derived from a natural source, it is often blended with synthetic fibers like acrylonitrile to improve its texture and strength. Therefore, milk cotton is generally considered to be a semi-synthetic fiber.

milk cotton bodysuits
Milk Cotton Bodysuits

Qmilk, the company founded by Anke Domaske, produces an organic version of milk cotton that is made entirely from casein fiber. This innovative fabric is made using a unique production process that requires no harmful chemicals, and it is considered to be an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional synthetic textiles. Domaske’s work has won numerous awards and accolades from environmental organizations and fashion critics alike, and it is widely regarded as a major breakthrough in the world of sustainable fashion.

Anke Domaske’s method of creating casein fabric involves heating the waste milk and then separating the milk proteins from the water using a special enzyme. Once these milk proteins have been extracted, they can be turned into fiber through a process that is similar to the one used to make rayon. This process doesn’t produce any toxic byproducts, and the resulting milk fiber is biodegradable and free of any harmful chemicals.

milk cotton yarn
Milk Cotton Yarn

Milk cotton, also known as casein fiber, has a unique allergen profile and is produced using environmentally sustainable processes. However, its production is currently minimal due to the prevalence of cheaper synthetic or semi-synthetic fabrics. Nevertheless, there is growing interest in protein-based fibers like milk cotton as a potential solution to the environmental issues associated with producing traditional textile crops. While the future of milk cotton remains uncertain, there is no doubt that its unique properties and sustainable production processes make it an interesting and potentially valuable addition to the textile industry.

Milk cotton is known for its soft and smooth texture and is often used in clothing that comes in direct contact with the skin due to its hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties. However, because of the complexity of producing casein fiber, the availability of milk cotton is limited. Those who have had the opportunity to wear this fabric have praised its excellent moisture-wicking abilities, and pure forms of casein fabric can withstand high-temperature washing. On the other hand, milk cotton blended with acrylic can only be washed in cold or warm water due to the synthetic fibers’ limitations.

How Is Milk Cotton Fabric Made?

how is milk cotton made

To produce casein fiber, the first step is to obtain milk. After the milk has been acquired, the protein casein is extracted from it using various chemical and mechanical methods. Once the casein is extracted, it is then processed into fiber form using either a dry or wet spinning process, depending on the specific manufacturer’s preferences. Finally, the resulting fiber is washed and sometimes treated with additional chemicals to improve its tensility and durability.

To extract the casein protein, the powdered milk is treated with an alkaline solution, such as sodium hydroxide, and then heated to create a thickened, viscous substance. This substance is then extruded through a spinneret into an acidic solution, which causes the protein strands to coagulate and solidify into fibers. These fibers are then spun into yarn and woven into fabric. Depending on the desired characteristics of the final product, the fibers may be blended with other materials, such as acrylic or viscose, to improve their strength, durability, and elasticity.

Different methods can be used to extract casein from milk powder. In one common method, the powder is dissolved in a solution of sodium hydroxide, and then the casein is extracted through the use of an acid bath. Another method uses enzymes to extract the casein, and this process is often considered to be more environmentally friendly. Once the casein has been extracted, it is spun into fibers or filaments, which can then be used to make milk cotton or other casein-based textiles.


new knitting wool soft milk cotton hand woven crochet chunky yarn
New Knitting wool soft milk Cotton Hand-woven Crochet Chunky Yarn

To create a semi-synthetic version of milk cotton, casein powder is combined with acrylonitrile to produce the synthetic fiber. The resulting fiber is then spun into yarn and made into fabric. However, this process is not entirely sustainable, as it requires the use of toxic chemicals and synthetic materials.

The traditional production process for casein fabric is not environmentally friendly or safe for workers. It involves the use of harsh chemicals, including formaldehyde, which can cause health problems. The alkali used to dissolve the powdered casein can also be harmful to workers, and the sulfuric acid used to remove the alkali is highly corrosive. This process produces toxic waste that can harm the environment if not disposed of properly.

The modern method of producing milk cotton or casein fiber involves the chemical grafting of pure casein to acrylonitrile using a process called graft copolymerization. This process does not involve the use of formaldehyde or other toxic chemicals used in the original casein fiber production process. However, acrylonitrile itself is a known toxin and carcinogen, which poses some environmental and health risks. Despite being more efficient and potentially safer, this modern method still has its share of challenges.

There have been reports of some milk cotton producers developing a more sustainable production method that does not involve mixing the casein fiber with synthetic materials. While this is promising news for the environment and worker safety, the specific details of this process have not been disclosed. As a result, it is difficult to assess the full environmental impact and safety of this new method. However, this development does suggest that the textile industry is continuing to explore new ways to produce sustainable and eco-friendly fabrics.

Indeed, while there is still much to learn about sustainable casein fabric production, the development of new, environmentally friendly methods for making milk cotton is encouraging. As more research is conducted on sustainable textile production, it’s likely that the methods used to make casein fabric will continue to improve, potentially leading to a resurgence in the popularity of this unique textile.

As the demand for sustainable fabrics grows, it is expected that more information will become available on the production methods used to make casein fabric without synthetic materials. However, for now, it is important to trust that manufacturers like Qmilk are fulfilling their promises of producing sustainable and organic milk cotton. As the industry evolves, it is also important for consumers to research and educate themselves on the fabrics they choose to wear to make informed decisions that prioritize the environment and their health.

How Is Milk Cotton Fabric Used?

how is milk cotton used

Casein fabric is often compared to silk due to its smooth texture and high gloss. Despite being a substitute for silk, it cannot completely replicate its qualities. However, if produced using the correct techniques, it can closely resemble the lightness and softness of silk.

In the 1930s and 1940s, milk cotton was also used as a substitute for wool in military uniforms due to wool shortages during World War II. However, it was soon discovered that milk fiber products, marketed as Lanatitil, Merinova, and Aralac, were not as durable and warm as wool, and production of these fabrics ceased. This was also around the time when purely synthetic materials, such as nylon, became more prevalent due to their lower cost and ease of production.

aisuru club x uglee milk cotton crop top
Aisuru Club X Uglee Milk Cotton Crop Top

In recent years, milk cotton has also been used in the manufacturing of sustainable and eco-friendly textiles due to its biodegradable nature and ability to be produced without toxic chemicals. Milk cotton is particularly popular among environmentally conscious fashion designers who are looking for sustainable and cruelty-free alternatives to traditional fabrics.

As the textile industry seeks more sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives to traditional materials like cotton, silk, and wool, casein fiber is garnering more attention from designers and manufacturers. As more information becomes available about the production process of pure milk casein fabric, it’s possible that this textile may become even more popular in the future.

Additionally, there is a growing trend among consumers who seek out environmentally-friendly and sustainable products. Pure milk cotton production processes avoid toxic chemicals, which is an attractive feature to these consumers. Furthermore, some consumers are willing to pay a premium for unique and natural materials that are not commonly found in mainstream fashion. In this way, casein fabric has a distinct appeal to consumers who value uniqueness and sustainability.


Where Is Milk Cotton Fabric Produced?

milk cotton in the world

However, I would like to clarify that milk cotton, also known as casein fiber, is not produced in large quantities anywhere in the world. Therefore, no single country can be considered a major producer of this type of textile. While China is the largest textile producer in the world, casein fiber is not produced in large quantities even in this manufacturing powerhouse.

Additionally, consumers who are interested in purchasing milk cotton fabric that is made from pure milk with environmentally friendly processes may have to pay a premium for these products due to the limited supply and the more labor-intensive production methods. However, the environmental benefits and unique properties of casein fabric may make it a worthwhile investment for those who are concerned about the sustainability of their fashion choices.

How Much Does Milk Cotton Fabric Cost?

This is likely due to the limited production and difficulty in obtaining raw materials, as well as the cost of ensuring environmentally friendly and sustainable production. Additionally, the use of pure milk in production adds to the cost, as opposed to using cheaper waste milk or other synthetic materials. As a result, milk cotton is considered a luxury textile and is typically reserved for high-end fashion and specialty products.

Sustainable fashion is crucial in today’s world, as the fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental damage and social injustice. By choosing sustainable options such as eco-friendly materials and ethical production methods, we can reduce the negative impact of the fashion industry on our planet and on the people involved in its production. Furthermore, sustainable fashion can drive innovation and creativity, as designers are challenged to find new ways to create beautiful and functional garments without harming the environment or exploiting workers. As consumers become more conscious of the impact of their purchasing decisions, sustainable fashion will continue to gain momentum, making it essential for fashion industry professionals to prioritize sustainability in their business practices.

What Different Types of Milk Cotton Fabric Are There?

different types of milk cotton

Milk cotton production using formaldehyde is now obsolete, but semi-synthetic milk fiber created with acrylonitrile has taken its place as the most commonly produced version. However, a new type of milk fiber made from pure casein is quickly gaining popularity worldwide. Unlike its semi-synthetic counterpart, pure casein milk fiber is made without any harmful chemicals and is environmentally sustainable. As a result, it is becoming the preferred choice among trendsetting cloth factories and fashion designers.

How Does Milk Cotton Fabric Impact the Environment?

The environmental sustainability of casein fabric is largely dependent on the manufacturing process used. Milk cotton, which was popular in the early 20th century, was often produced with formaldehyde, a harmful neurotoxin that pollutes the environment. However, any milk fiber that is created using formaldehyde is not environmentally sustainable. Fortunately, it is unlikely that any modern casein fiber manufacturers still use this toxic chemical in their production processes. Therefore, it is safe to assume that casein fabric made today is environmentally sustainable and an excellent choice for fashion designers and cloth factories looking to promote eco-friendliness.

While milk cotton made with acrylonitrile is a slight improvement for textile workers and the environment compared to its formaldehyde counterpart, it cannot be deemed completely sustainable. One major issue with this type of casein fiber is that it is nearly impossible to recycle, and it does not biodegrade. Furthermore, acrylic textiles are highly flammable, which can pose a serious risk to individuals’ health and safety. Therefore, while it may be a better choice compared to other synthetic fabrics, milk cotton made with acrylonitrile is still not an ideal option for environmentally conscious fashion designers and cloth factories.

cotton sleeves milk silk body
Cotton sleeves – Milk silk body

It is worth noting that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has warned that acrylonitrile, the chemical used in the production of milk cotton made with acrylonitrile, can enter the human body through skin absorption, inhalation, and ingestion. Acrylonitrile is classified as a carcinogen and mutagen, which means it can cause cancer and lead to genetic mutations. As a result, wearing clothing made from fabrics containing acrylonitrile can potentially increase the risk of developing cancer, and individuals who are in direct contact with this chemical during the manufacturing process may also face serious health hazards. Therefore, it is advisable for fashion designers and cloth factories to prioritize the health and well-being of workers and consumers by opting for more eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics.

Improper disposal of acrylonitrile used in the production of milk cotton can have adverse effects on the environment. Additionally, some estimates suggest that creating three pounds of milk fiber requires about 100 gallons of milk, potentially leading to wasteful manufacturing processes. However, it is important to note that the amount of milk needed to create this fabric may vary depending on the manufacturing process used. Anke Domaske, for example, has claimed that she can produce six T-shirts with just one kilogram of milk, indicating that the amount of milk required to create milk fiber may not be standardized across all manufacturers. As such, it is crucial for fashion designers and cloth factories to conduct research on their suppliers and the manufacturing processes they use to ensure that they are making informed and responsible decisions about the materials they use in their products.

The environmental impact of milk cotton production remains uncertain until it becomes a more mainstream product. On one hand, using waste milk to create milk cotton appears to be a sustainable solution that repurposes an otherwise discarded resource. However, it is essential to consider the production process, as certain methods can be hazardous to the environment. For instance, some of the earlier milk cotton production techniques involved harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde and acrylonitrile. Therefore, it is crucial for fashion designers and cloth factories to conduct thorough research on milk cotton suppliers and their manufacturing processes to ensure that they are using sustainable and eco-friendly materials. By doing so, they can make informed decisions and help promote sustainable practices in the fashion industry.

Milk Cotton Certifications Available

milk cotton certifications

In 2004, the entire purely organic milk fiber industry received Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification, signifying that it is considered to be 100% environmentally sustainable. However, it is worth noting that the largest producers of purely organic milk fiber have not disclosed specific details about their production processes, so it is unclear what aspects of their practices led to this prestigious certification. Despite this, the certification is an important indicator of the industry’s commitment to promoting eco-friendliness and sustainability in the fashion industry. As such, fashion designers and cloth factories looking to prioritize sustainability may consider using purely organic milk fiber, given its environmentally friendly credentials.

Currently, neither the United States Department of Agriculture nor the EU’s organic standards organization recognizes milk fiber as a textile that can achieve organic status. However, as the production of milk fiber increases in volume and more information becomes available on the manufacturing processes used to create purely organic casein fiber, it is possible that more certifications will become available in the future. It is important to note, however, that the semi-synthetic fabric created by mixing casein fiber and acrylonitrile cannot be certified as organic or environmentally sustainable. As such, it is crucial for fashion designers and cloth factories to prioritize environmentally sustainable materials and production processes when selecting materials for their products. By doing so, they can help promote eco-friendliness and sustainability in the fashion industry.


claims to have created a form of milk cotton made from only casein fiber,



 acrylonitrate enters the body via skin absorption, inhalation, and ingestion Oeko-Tek Standard 100

Author's Bio:
Sherry Lin

Sherry Lin

Sales Director of fabricstrades.com, a GRS-certified manufacturer of sustainable stretch fabrics. She love sharing fabrics procurement insights.

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